End of May, 1984
The daily, ongoing struggles; the strategies for expansion and absorption; the backstabbing, lies, accusations and meetings would all have to wait.
Friends, foes (and those living or working in the periphery) called or visited.
The service itself was relatively short and attended by a small coterie of family, whether by blood or choice.
Weather-wise, it was a perfect day: not too hot, but sunny; a bright sky tempered by small batches of clouds that chugged across the sky all day long, as though they were headed somewhere, as though it were any other day. As though they didn’t know that Vince McMahon Sr. had just passed away and the world of professional wrestling was on its way to becoming sports-entertainment.
Of course the clouds didn’t know. Nor did the birds or the trees or the flowers or the bees.
They also didn’t know that when Vince purchased the WWF from his father, he’d concealed his true plans, his vision. His dad wouldn’t have sold it to him if otherwise.
And of course, they (like Vince) couldn’t have known that nothing would go as planned without Hulk Hogan at the forefront of the company. Still, plans change all the time.
If one champion or leader isn’t getting the job done, a promoter could always create another…that’s how bookers and promoters see it, anyway.
But there was only one Vince McMahon Sr.
Only one man who ran the Northeast territory. You can have your Sportatoriums and your Greensboro Coliseums and your Omaha Civic Auditoriums.
“The Garden will always be the Garden,” Vince Sr. was fond of saying, leaving only a trace of the sound of the letter “R” (like most-any Northeasterner) while talking about Madison Square Garden.
If you came to him with a problem or question or request, he’d lean back with a roll of quarters in his hands and stack them on top of one another in his palm; it helped him concentrate. Vince had placed a roll in the breast-pocket of his burial suit so that his dad would be able to concentrate if asked a question by the Good Lord.
Vince remembered the coins all the way back to his teens, when his dad would stack and roll the coins over and stack them again in his hand when Vince Jr. would come to him with an idea or problem that required reflection.
Vince Sr. was an honest, polite, intelligent man. He was a good father and respected businessman. And, of course, he’d earned his fair share of enemies – just as anyone successful does in the course of a lifetime.
“If you’ve got a lot of friends, you’re not making any money,” Vince Sr. had once told Terry Bollea; a paraphrased version of which Hogan would go on to repeat when giving advice to younger wrestlers.
But Vince Sr. did have friends and money, perhaps providing the exception that proves the rule. Indeed, the most consistent thing said by those who stood at the podium during the eulogy, was how nice he was. And how honest he was. Andre the Giant (the highest-paid athlete of the 70’s) worked on a handshake with Vince McMahon Sr.
In the world of professional wrestling, reminiscing about how nice someone was, is usually said with your head hanging low, lamenting how someone that nice could have ended up so financially destitute.
Immediately followed by stating, “And so honest”, as those 2 things usually go hand-in-hand.
But honest and nice he was and as the touch of death (and the feelings of loss that accompany it) leaves no one untouched, Verne Gagne, Fritz Von Erich and dozens of others in the wrestling world had reached out to Vince Jr. to offer their condolences. As had city officials, politicians, charitable organizations and other people and companies who’d been touched by Vince Sr.’s kindness and generosity.
He’d grown up in Harlem and learned the business of promoting boxing, rock concerts and pro wrestling from his father. He’d brought “Capitol Wrestling”, as it was called then, to TV in the 50’s and sold out Northeastern arenas throughout the rest of that decade and all the way into the 70’s. He was the first promoter to consistently pay his wrestlers a cut of the gate. He was beloved.
And – in wrestling and in life – that’s when it hurts the most: When the world is a little worse off because you die; because you were good, honest, nice…beloved.
You had some part in making some part of the world a better place for some length of time and now you’re gone and while memories bring a smile to faces, the loss felt in hearts brings tears to eyes.
But that’s what life and loss is like and life is for the living.
So, the very next day, Vince McMahon Jr. got busy living, as there was much to do.